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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Local Minister Is Speaker for MLK Jr. Program; Day of Service Planned

The Rev. Kirk T. Houston Sr., founder and senior pastor of Gethsemane Community Fellowship Baptist Church in Norfolk, will give the address at Old Dominion University's Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance.

Houston, who has grown his ministry from 35 to more than 2,000 members, will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in the Big Blue Room of the Ted Constant Convocation Center. The program is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested. Visit www.odu.edu/ao/univevents (event code: MLK13) or call 683-3116.

This will be ODU's 29th annual observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The program is held each year to honor King for his work in civil rights and all the changes in society that occurred as a result. The university will be closed for the federal MLK holiday, Monday, Jan. 21, but will sponsor its annual MLK Day of Service on this day (see details below).

Houston, who has done extensive work and research in the fields of prison ministry, offender rehabilitation and ex-offender re-entry into society, will also be presented ODU's Hugo Owens Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award. The award recognizes individuals in the community whose lives mirror the principles of equality and humanity King fought for. The award's other namesake, Hugo Owens, was a former rector of the ODU Board of Visitors and a longtime champion of civil rights in Hampton Roads.

Houston holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and a Master of Divinity degree from the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond. In addition to ministering to his congregation, he serves as chaplain to the city of Norfolk Sheriff's Office, chair of the Norfolk Jail Ministry's board of directors, chair of the Norfolk Public Schools board, chair of the Garden of Hope Community Development Corporation and director of the Christian Student Fellowship at Norfolk State University.

He is also the author of "The Church's Return Policy: Equipping the Church to Minister to Ex-offenders."

A native of south Florida, Houston lives in the Hampton Roads area with his wife, Sharon M. Houston, who serves as director of ministries at Gethsemane Community Fellowship Baptist Church and as deputy director of the Garden of Hope.

In conjunction with its observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the campus community will again offer an MLK Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 21, to make the holiday a day on, rather than a day off. A remembrance ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. in the North Cafeteria of Webb Center, followed by a community cleanup. The day's events will close with lunch and community projects at the Lambert's Point Community Center. The MLK Day of Service is co-sponsored by the Nu Theta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

The observance of MLK Day at ODU has, in fact, expanded to include several other events, from Jan. 19-22. Go to http://ww2.studentaffairs.odu.edu/osal/community/mlkdayofservice.shtml for more information and instructions on how to register.